Laptop carts are handy in any setting, but it can be difficult to justify the cost. While laptop prices continue to fall rather drastically, it still remains cheaper to set up a desktop or thin-client lab than purchase 20-25 laptops and a rolling cart to hold and charge them all. Adequate wireless infrastructure is also required to ensure appropriate bandwidth to each machine. Standalone labs can be easily wired for gigabit speeds now.
However, I received a call yesterday from our district special ed office. The secretary reminded me that I was hosting online training in for all of the special ed staff in the district in one of our computer labs since we have the largest labs in the district. Having forgotten completely about this training, I uttered a string of expletives under my breath and cheerfully told her that I looked forward to seeing her tomorrow.
The problem was not so much hosting the training. I live just down the road. The real problem was the renovation ongoing at the school. Every summer, we break down the labs so that rooms can have a thorough cleaning and floors can be waxed. This summer, the labs are not only being cleaned, but they're being moved. Better yet, their destinations are currently undergoing asbestos abatement and construction. So what's the status of my labs?
Fortunately, in this case, the lab I wanted to use is still intact and already asbestos-free. However, wouldn't a laptop cart be a useful training tool for the district? Professional development, drivers' education, summer school...you name it. The cart could be used regardless of the state of the remainder of the school, in any room with wireless penetration. Cafeteria, auditorium, gymnasium, office, conference room, etc., etc.
Schools are obviously there to education students during the year, but summer is a time when the schools can be opened to the community as well. A mobile lab would certainly support this.
I'm not saying that everyone should run out and buy a laptop cart. They aren't cheap and certainly aren't expressly necessary. However, if you're on the fence and trying to get your district to pitch in some extra money, try the professional and community development tactic. It might actually work.